By Jacob Arvidson
After being eliminated from the state playoffs for four straight years by Calvin Christian, the Warriors finally broke through on Friday. They defeated the Squires 2-1 in a dramatic overtime shootout game in the Division 4 regional final at Hope College.
WMC sealed the win by outscoring Calvin 4-3 in the shootout. The Warriors (15-6-3) now advance to the state semifinals against Montrose at Comstock Park on Tuesday.
“They just have a will,” WMC head coach Dave Hulings said about his team. “They have a will to push, and just make one extra step in front of a ball to cut down a passing lane and do something to stop the other team.
“The longer the game went, I think the more were convinced we could win.”
The WMC victory ends Calvin’s 32-game postseason winning streak, a run which included four state titles.
“In order to be the best, you have to beat the best, and they are just the best team,” Hulings said. “They’re so well coached. He didn’t have the talent he’s had in the past, but he still gets them to play.
“Nobody in the state has beat these guys in this long. We’re pleased.”
The first 20 minutes of the game went back and forth.
WMC freshman Morgan Kinnucan created two quality chances for the Warriors, but neither ended up in the back of the net.
On the flip side, the Squires created three good looks of their own.
Whitney Koets had an 18-yard shot saved by Warrior goalkeeper Ashlyn Lane. Six minutes later, Lane was tested again by a 25-yard free kick strike by Kaleigh VanElst, but the shot whistled just wide of the post.
Calvin’s third chance of the game was a success. With 13:03 left in the first half, Natalie Honeycutt ripped a 25-yard free kick to the back post to give the four-time defending state champions a 1-0 lead.
The Squires would hold their one goal advantage at halftime.
“We been down before and have had to adjust,” Hulings said. “We’ve been through that 15 times and they’ve adjusted.”
Te momentum began to tip toward WMC in the second half, when the Warriors’ defense limited Calvin to few quality chances.
The Warriors’ breakthrough came with 22:41 remaining in regulation. A foul gave WMC a free kick from about 40 yards out.
Mikaela Erickson stood confidently over the ball for the Warriors. She took a short run up and unleashed a rocket toward the far post. The shot rifled into the side netting, tying the game at 1-1.
“Over the years I’ve come up with the nickname ‘Thunderfoot,’” Erickson said. “We’ve been practicing that and everyone’s believed in me. It was just awesome that I was able to celebrate this with my team.”
The score remained tied until the end of regulation.
Two 10-minute overtime periods ensued, with both teams trading possessions without any serious scoring chances.
That led to the dramatic shootout, with each goaltender going one-on-one with five opposing players. The team that scored the most goals would win the game and advance in the tournament.
Lane stood tall in goal for the Warriors, saving two of Calvin’s five shots.
The sophomore keeper was ecstatic to be in a position to win the game for her team.
“I can’t tell you how excited I was (to be headed to the shootout),” Lane said. “A lot of players are pretty tricky with turning their hips, but a lot of players tend to look at the corner they’re not going to shoot at, so it’s pretty easy.”
With the breathing room provided by their goalkeeper, Erickson, Nadeau, Kinnucan and Brea Frein each converted their shots to give the Warriors a dramatic win.